An Investigation into the Perceptions of First-time Online Undergraduate Learners on Orientation Events

April 6, 2008

Orientation programs have been used for years in face-to-face universities and colleges to help prepare new students adjust to their new college community by providing key information about school resources and providing an opportunity socially interact with other students. These orientation efforts have been a vital component in increasing a students’ likelihood of persisting in their program of study (i.e. not dropping out). Distance Education institutions (often with online course offerings) tend to have significantly higher drop out rates than their face-to-face counterparts, and thus orienting new online students to their new online learning environment is a logical progression. However, orientation events need to be customized to the population if they are to have a significant impact on persistence. This study explores the perceptions that a group of online undergraduate students had of three different types of orientation events. These events included a traditional face-to-face orientation session, a pre-recorded course orientation video, and a live webinar. These perceptions were revealed in responses to an online survey and comments within and after the webinar. The study concludes with suggestions for further research and presents possible alternatives to the traditional methods of student orientation.

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